What is Indy 500 still up in the air
June 30, 2002
Race fans everywhere have the “Jeopardy” theme song running through their heads while Tony George comes up with the answer to Paul Tracy and Team Green’s “Final Jeopardy” question.
Not since 1981 has the outcome of the Indy 500 been delayed for so long. Given that the dispute is between a CART team and an IRL team, and old Tony (Mr. IRL) himself is the final arbiter, I don’t think the sports books are gonna touch any bets on the outcome.
The Winston Cup race at Sears Point was one of the more interesting in years. What had everybody scratching their heads was the rash of rear-end failures. All Winston Cup teams use the Ford 9 inch rear end, which has proven to be relatively bulletproof over the years, but a number of drivers including some of the points leaders fell out with broken diffs.
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth all had trouble, but the most heartbreaking failure had to be Jerry Nadeau’s Petty Pontiac, just a couple of laps shy of a solid victory.
Crew chiefs were scratching their heads, and Hendrick Motorsports racing manager Ken Howes suspected a batch of bad components.
“You’d have this kind of problem on a road course. It’s aggravated by racing on a road course,” said Howe. “It’s just kind of strange that it’s the same kind of component with five different teams.”
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Those of you who watched the race on TV saw all the changes that $50 million can make to a racing facility. The old complaint about not being able to see much of the track at a road course no longer holds true for Sears Point. The only thing I don’t like about it is the new name, Infineon Raceway. Personally, I prefer the traditional names for things: Charlotte, not Lowe’s; Candlestick Park, not 3-Com Park; Sears Point, not Infineon. Given recent happenings in the world of business, having your favorite sport associated with an Enron or WorldCom can’t be a positive public relations move.
Although it was sad that Jerry Nadeau got robbed, the racing gods definitely owed Ricky Rudd one. The 45-year-old Rudd put one in the win column for the Winston Cup “Veterans,” who have been drubbed by the “Young Lions” this season. Rumors of Rudd’s retirement have been flying around the garage area for some time, particularly since Elliott Sadler has started hanging around the No. 28 car of Robert Yates. Sadler will be released from the Wood Brothers ride (at his own request) at the end of the season. Rudd was his usual candid self in post-race interviews, noting that he was thinking about retirement, but mostly for family and personal reasons, not because of losing his competitive edge.
An interested spectator at Sears Point (oh, all right, Infineon) was Max Papis. His Champ Car was parked at Portland due to the Sigma team’s unpaid bills to Cosworth, Firestone, and other suppliers and the team will also miss today’s race at its home track, Chicago Motor Speedway. Max has proved that he’s fast in whatever he drives, from the big Lemans sports cars to Indy cars both on ovals and road courses. Could he be the first European to get a toehold in NASCAR’s top division? Winston Cup is, after all, the last bastion of almost exclusively white male American-born competitors (with a few notable exceptions like Wendell Scott and Shawna Robinson). Other CART drivers of foreign extraction (notably Christian Fittipaldi, who ran a Busch Grand National race earlier this year) have expressed cautious interest in NASCAR as well.
One of the things I don’t like about having this column run on Sundays is that local racing is already over, but I can’t talk about it because my deadline is before the race has run! So I have to think a week ahead, which is difficult at my age. Anyway, be sure to save next Saturday night for Champion Speedway, where the fastest cars to run on the high-banked quarter mile will be going at it hot and heavy. Yep, it’s the Supermodified Racing League, in its one and only visit to Champion this year. I’ll see you out there!
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com
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